Since its 1913 remodel, the Gasparilla Inn & Club has been a power hub in the sleepy village of Boca Grande, located on a barrier island between Naples and Sarasota. Titans of industry like J.P. Morgan and Henry Ford vacationed there, as did Hollywood elite like Katherine Hepburn. But after a century of vacationers, the shabby-chic transomed rooms (sans air conditioning), peanut butter and bacon canapes at cocktail hour, and a strict, clubby dress code, were in need of a refresh. The designers to call? Interior design duo Palm Beach native Mimi Maddock McMakin, Cece Bowman and Mackenzie Hodgson of Kemble Interiors. A team who intrinsically understood which Lovey and Thurston Howell-esque touches should stay, and which were ready to enter a new era.
When walls collide with geometric shapes, an uninspired space can suddenly have a strong point of view. Whether iterated as patterned wallpaper, mirrors, or artwork in shapely frames, the effect can be subtle or statement making.
“Geometric shapes are very dynamic and carry a lot of visual weight,” says New Jersey-based Jennifer Matthews, co-founder and creative director at Tempaper, a line of removable wallpaper. “If they are small, they can add textural interest, whereas larger shapes create bold movement in a room.”
“When mixed with more traditional motifs, they lend a freshness to the designs,” says Los Angeles-based designer Stefani Stein. Meanwhile, the repetitive nature of geometrics lends an organization to a room, so there’s an automatic symmetry.
“Don’t be afraid to use geometric shapes, regardless of your overall style direction,” says Tulsa, Okla.-based designer Mel Bean. “An all-neutral space with limited layering of geometric shapes and patterns is an entirely different experience from a colorful, complex, extensive use of pattern and color.”
Combining different shapes creates an interesting tension, Matthews says, like pairing oval sconces or circled mirrors with scalloped wallpaper and a diamond rug or bold-tiled flooring. New York-based Barbara Karpf, founder and president of DecoratorsBest, an online retailer for high-end textiles and wallpapers, recommends mixing different geometric patterns together when they have varied scales. “A small, tight pattern works well with a large open geometric—one pattern could have a touch of a color that is prominent in the other pattern,” she says.
WORK WITH WALLPAPER
The easiest way to apply pattern to walls is by using wallpaper. “Geometric wallpapers range in effect from youthful to sophisticated,” Bean says. “The iconic Hicks hexagon wall covering is an elegant classic. And for a bold, modern approach, I love Cole & Son’s Geometric II paper,” she says.
“A wallpapered statement wall can form foyers from simple hallways, home offices from cozy corners, and separate dining areas from living spaces,” Karpf says. Keep in mind, a small, repetitive pattern works everywhere, whereas a big, bold pattern will work best on an accent wall, she says.
And, when considering color, generally, the lighter the hue, the subtler the experience, says Newton, Mass.-based designer Liz Caan. “Geometric patterns with high-contrast colors will always veer into bold and graphic territory, so be mindful when choosing your palette.”
Using geometric prints has another benefit: They can hide a multitude of sins. For one project, Manhattan-based designer Timothy Brown used a multicolor tonal stripe to hide some millwork he didn’t want to remove but also didn’t want to highlight. They also “allow you to control the direction and flow of a space, whether you want to cast focus on an area or guide the eye away from a less savory spot,” he says.
Combining geometrics with other patterns adds interest and can balance out the look. “A stripe or geometric pattern on a printed grasscloth wallcovering can soften the crisp nature of a bold print,” Stein says. She suggests trying a variegated stripe, monochrome geometric, or tonal variation for a dramatic backdrop that won’t overpower the other elements of the space. Caan prefers to play with “opposites” when it comes to wallpapers, such as mixing a bold stripe or geometric with a floral. “When the colors are copacetic and the scales are varying—creating some relational value—the end result can have a dramatic effect, but one with a softer edge thanks to the floral balancing the sharp lines of the geometric,” she says.
THINK BEYOND WALLPAPER
There are other mediums in which to shape your walls, too. “Our favorite method, which introduces rich texture and architectural interest, is through applied moldings,” says Chicago-based designer Tom Stringer. “We’ve used a repeating geometric motif at various scales in applied moldings, and then again in other areas in carved screens to layer pattern and texture into a stark white interior.”
Stringer has also utilized painted designs, which he achieved by taping off patterns and then painting in contrasting colors to create geometric motifs on walls.
Geometric shapes, when applied to upholstery, help create depth, says Chicago- and San Francisco-based interior designer Alison Pickart. “I’ve used ceiling-mounted drapery in hallways that have utility and closet doors that needed to be concealed yet still be accessible,” she says. She also loves to use tiled geometric patterns, whether on kitchen walls or bathroom backsplashes to incorporate interest.
STRIKE A BALANCE
“The biggest impact comes from either using them in excess or very thoughtfully in small, understated doses,” Caan says.
Brown considers every aspect of the room when working with geometric shapes to create an overall symmetry.
“Any room is a mix of geometric shapes—from added furniture to the decisive lines of windows and doors. Focus on the scale of any pattern or shape so that it all works together,” Brown says.
There’s a restrained beauty about an all-white space; it’s a sophisticated refinement that awes in its absence of color. And, depending on accent features, furniture, and fabrics, the effect can feel warm and welcoming or modern and minimalist.
“White spaces are serene and provide a neutral setting for other more subtle items in the room to shine,” says Amalia Graziani of Noor Property Group, a Manhattan-based real estate development firm. They also create a blank canvas, says Phillip Thomas, founder and principal of Phillip Thomas Inc. in New York City. “You can build a story within the space,” he says. Creating an inspired design is all in the details.
VARY THE SHADES
Playing with different tones of white and cream can keep the room from feeling too stark, says Rome, Italy-based architect and designer Achille Salvagni. He suggests incorporating prints that combine shades of either white or cream on the walls, in the upholstery, or even on the floor. “Small or subtle pops of color or metallics introduced into the room, that come from art and accessories, also add warmth and a level of sophistication,” Salvagni says. “I like to use a warmer white on the walls paired with brighter trim and a cooler ceiling,” Graziani says. “Subtle contrast makes the space feel much more inviting.”
CREATE TEXTURAL TOUCHES
Warming up the room and adding dimension is a matter of texture. “Texture is key in keeping a white space from lacking soul,” Thomas says. “Texture reflects light—both natural and artificial—in different ways, and light excites the eye.”
Salvagni prefers materials such as cashmere, boucle, sheepskin, and mohair, particularly for upholstery, to add warmth, depth, and a sense of comfort. For carpeting, he opts for a plush, warm-toned silk. “I love the idea of complementing a white ceiling and all-white walls with a printed carpet that combines different shades of white and cream,” he says. Hand-knotted and handwoven rugs add sophistication and a sense of luxury to a space, says Lance Thomas, co-founder of Room Service, a fine furniture and interior design firm in Lake Charles, La. “I personally like to contrast the style of my rug to the furniture that sits on top of it,” he says.
Graziani prefers chunky sisal rugs for warmth and texture to offset cool walls. She also loves the contrast of a rough linen weave alongside softer materials such as cashmere and boucle. But texture is not just found in textiles. Lance Thomas recommends wallpapering walls in suede or introducing a lacquered finish on a side table.
FOCUS ON ACCENTS
Finishes such as metal play a significant role in achieving an impactful all-white space, Lance Thomas says. “Matte black or iron hardware and fixtures can add stark contrast and a contemporary spin on the space,” he adds. And contrast is a powerful tool. “When the eye sees the truest white and the truest black in a space, all of the other variations of white become richer.”
Given the neutral nature of white walls, there’s a chance to play with interesting hardware and doors, Graziani says. “Sharp stainless door handles, antique glass knobs, or a bold door will shine in an otherwise understated room,” she says. For instance, in one of the white rooms she’s designed, she added three sets of double French doors in place of conventional doors to add depth and reflection. “Adding structural details such as bold beams, chair rails, and paneling also elevates the space and creates dimension,” she says. And don’t forget about greenery, “not only for its vibrant color, but to add a sense of warmth, calm, and fragrance to a space,” Lance Thomas says.
Layering is another important tool. “An all-white space looks best when it feels collected over time,” he adds. For example, a mid-century coffee table would play nicely on top of an antique rug. Or, he recommends framing a vintage piece of art in a contemporary lacquered frame. His other musts: a healthy mix of patterns, patina, and personality, wood furniture, at least one antique—even in a contemporary space—as well as a custom-tailored piece. “When a space feels collected, it creates intention,” Lance Thomas says.
In terms of shapes, Salvagni suggests round and organic forms for sofas, chaises, coffee and dining tables, and even carpets. “These round and organic shapes will accentuate the coziness of the room,” he says.
LET THERE BE LIGHT
“Lighting is probably the best way to add another dimension and elemental layering,” Salvagni says. The first thing he looks for is to add warm-hued lighting as well as an appropriately proportioned light fixture. “This will create the dimension needed to enhance the ambiance in the room, and when done correctly, always helps to keep a room feeling warm and looking elegantly stylish,” he explains.
“Ambient lighting is a wonderful way to intentionally create depth through highlights and shadows,” Lance Thomas adds. “I love the way a pair of wall sconces can cast shadows onto the ceiling and highlight slivers of surrounding furniture.”
Incorporating multiple sources of light helps a room feel more inviting, Graziani says. “Instead of relying on a central pendant or chandelier, incorporating soft secondary sources of light, such as picture lighting and task lamps, can make a big difference,” she says.
HOW TO USE THE DARKEST SHADE IN A WAY THAT’S CHIC AND EYE-CATCHING
Appeared in RESIDE Magazine.
Shading your walls in black may not be the first thing that comes to mind when you’re considering paint colors. But black has a daring all its own that can bring character and chicness to your space.
“The result is both unexpected and incredibly sophisticated,” says Andrea Magno, a Benjamin Moore color and design expert.
“Black has an interesting effect on the walls of a room because the corners and shadows are obscured more than if a midtone or pastel color is used,” Magno says. “This can be used as a visual trick to give the space a less-defined appearance and can make a room feel a bit more expansive.”
Black walls can also bring coziness. “Dark walls coupled with dramatic lighting create an instant air of luxury and sumptuousness,” says Karen Howes, CEO and founder of London-based interior-design firm Taylor Howes.
Choosing the Right Room
It’s important to consider the function of the room and also the time of day that you spend the most time there, Howes says. Great candidates for black walls include rooms used primarily as evening spaces or those that aren’t reliant on task lighting, such as home cinemas and dining rooms, she says.
In a media room, black walls help absorb the light and won’t distract from the room’s main function, Howes says. “We also find using darker tones in dining rooms helps create a luxurious feel in the evening when our clients are entertaining,” she says.
“Often the rooms that are most successful have a balance between light and dark—where black walls are paired with a light floor color or furniture done in neutrals and whites,” Magno adds.
Accent Versus All Four Walls
“Black can be a superb choice, as it allows you to play with contrasts,” says Nicolas Adnet of Studio MHNA, an architecture and design firm in Paris. “For example, if the rest of the room is done in pale or pastel palettes, painting a wall black can add drama and create atmosphere.”
A single black wall can also give character and structure to a space and be used to highlight furniture or a collection of art, Adnet notes.
If used as an accent, Magno says, it’s important that it creates a focal point and architecturally makes sense in the room. For instance, accent walls work well when a room has a wall with a fireplace or millwork, or when there is an alcove or other feature worthy of attention, she says.
Black walls can handle patterned accessories or upholstery. “The black will tend to recede, causing the pattern to advance or be more eye-catching,” Magno says. Repeating black in patterns also helps tie the look of the room together.
“For instance, many materials used for countertops—whether marble, granite, or quartz—have black running through them and can instantly create a visual connection between the walls and other features in the room,” Magno says.
The finish you choose for the paint can have different effects on the space. A matte black has a soft quality, while a high gloss will add reflection and drama.
“Using a semigloss or high-gloss finish works well in dark spaces, as it helps to bounce the light around,” Howes says. “We tend to combine different finishes in one space to get a nice balance.”
Using Trims Well
Often rooms with walls painted black have white or off-white trim for a clean look, Magno notes. “Black looks great when used in a space with neutral or white wainscoting or cabinetry because the contrast is striking and chic,” she adds.
For a sophisticated look, she recommends painting walls and trim or millwork in one black hue, and either using the same finish on both surfaces or using a lower sheen on the walls, such as a matte finish and a semigloss or high gloss on the trim.
Published in RESIDE Magazine.
Floral paintings are making a contemporary comeback, farmhouses are getting modern face-lifts, and rooms are offering design “experiences.” Here are the latest trends in art, architecture, and design.
A new generation of artists is breathing life into a centuries-old subject: florals. The works, which range from traditional botanicals to avant-garde abstractions and edgy photographic images, are intimate portraits of nature in all its glorious phases. Stockholm-based photographer Carl Kleiner often employs flowers in his works, creating undulating images with stems and petals in impossibly whimsical positions. Belfast painter Ted Pim has been creating oil-on-canvas rose bouquets for the past 15 years. The works, which sell for US$3,000 to US$22,000, are brutally brooding and literally dripping with subtle significance.
“Roses are a symbol of love but also can be incredibly dark,” he says. “I grew up listening to Tarot readings my friend’s grandmother did, and I learned that the rose is a symbol of balance. It expresses promise, new beginnings and hope. Its thorns represent defense, physicality, loss, and thoughtlessness. I use these themes in my work to create beautiful pieces of art.”
Inspired by 18th-century works of Dutch painter Rachel Ruysch, Pim deliberately flaws “perfect floral scenes, with every inch analyzed and overanalyzed for imperfections” by dripping a mixture of etching ink and white spirits over the work at the end to emphasize the unpredictability and fragility of life. “It’s a thrill to pour the mixture over the oils, trying to balance the elements of destruction and creation,” he says. “A lot of people would ask if the flowers I paint are dying or coming to life. I like that they have to make up their own minds.”
The so-called modern farmhouse is one of the latest manifestations of the quest to create a classical, comfortable residence that is suitable for casual, contemporary life
The hybrid houses, which are, on the outside, spare and Shaker simple, feature opulent, open-plan interiors and are sited to exploit the sun and the natural breezes.
“Modern farmhouses combine traditional forms with the clarity, simplicity, and openness of Mid-Century Modern architecture,” says architect Matthew Griffith, a principal of in situ studio in Raleigh, N.C. “Farmhouses were not meant to be decorative—they were practical, and they were beautiful, quiet places.”
The wood-sided structures, which typically have durable metal roofs, take design cues from vernacular farmhouses, yet look more austerely elegant than agrarian.
“The interior spaces are not always one room,” Griffith says, noting that in one in situ studio project, a stairway serves as an architectural connector.
He says that the form, which blends indoor and outdoor spaces, has become so popular that “it’s a movement—developers of spec properties are using the term ‘modern farmhouse’ to describe them. Five years ago, when we designed our first one at a client’s behest, it was a novelty.”
The rooms we live in should not simply be seen but also appeal to the emotions. That’s the credo of experiential design, whose spaces stimulate the five senses.
Becky Shea, whose eponymous design firm is based in New York City and Los Angeles, sees such design as “holistic therapy” that creates “a subconscious calm.”
In her interiors, she evokes memories with, among other cues, materials, meditative ambient sound, living walls, and a signature scent diffused through the HVAC system.
In one project where her clients were renovating the family home, she used its old flooring to create built-in cabinetry for the breakfast room. “Now, every day, they are reminded of the memories that were created on the floors,” she says.
For another home, she designed an oversize custom rug that matched the material of the client’s favorite sweater. “She told us how much she loves the experience of waking up and wiggling her toes in the plush alpaca boucle before starting her day,” Shea says.
Digging deeply into the client’s psyche is key to the process. “If conventional design is like dating, experiential design is more like being married with two kids and a pet,” she says. “We get to know every detail about our clients from what kind of deodorant they use to where they vacationed as children.” Shea says she knows the design is successful “when clients tell us they’ve never felt more ‘at home.’”